We’re now roughly 9 weeks away from the start of the 2019 NFL league year and with that, there’s a good chance that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will sign another contract extension by the middle of March as his current deal only runs through the 2019 season. On Wednesday, former NFL agent Joel Corry of CBS Sports wrote extensively about what a new contract extension might look like for Roethlisberger and it’s worth detailing some finer points that he covered in it.
For starters, Roethlisberger is currently scheduled to earn a base salary of $12 million in 2019 in addition to being due a $5 million roster bonus less than a week after the new league year starts. Roethlisberger’s scheduled salary cap charge for 2019 is $23.2 million and that’s composed of his $12 million base salary, his $5 million roster bonus and $6.2 million in previous signing bonus proration.
While Roethlisberger could decide that he wants a new deal with a new money average just shy of the NFL’s current top paid quarterback, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers ($33.5 million per year), that would put his new money average at approximately $33.25 million per year. Corry, however, speculates that Roethlisberger might be inclined to have his current yearly average of $21.85 million per year adjusted up to meet the speculated 2019 salary cap environment.
The NFL’s preliminary projections put the 2019 salary cap between $187 million and $191.1 million. Adjusting Roethlisberger’s current $21.85 million average to the expected cap increase would mean an extension in the $29 million-per-year range.
A new money average for Roethlisberger of $29 million per season would then shoehorn him in between Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan ($30 million per year) and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins ($28 million) and thus third overall.
If we are to assume that Roethlisberger would accept an extension that has a new money average of $29 million like Corry suggested in his post, we can then move forward with what the quarterback’s signing bonus might look like and what his new salary cap charge for 2019 would then become.
Corry suggest in his post that the Steelers sign Roethlisberger to a four-year extension, which would result in the quarterback’s contract expiring after the 2023 season. Five years is the maximum length of time that signing bonuses can be prorated so a four-year extension would then allow for that. Corry also goes on to suggest that Roethlisberger be given a $40 million signing bonus for signing an extension based on the way the Steelers have structured his previous extensions.
The deal will likely have a large signing bonus regardless of how hard of a bargain Roethlisberger drives, since Pittsburgh veteran contracts typically have a vanilla structure. Roethlisberger’s current deal had a $31 million signing bonus. With the exception of Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh deals don’t have base salary guarantees. The guarantees in his 2016 and 2017 contract years were for injury only.
Do note, however, that a $40 million signing bonus would include the $5 million roster bonus that Roethlisberger is due in March in addition to all but $1.03 million of the $12 million base salary that the quarterback is already due in 2019. Also, do keep in mind that that $15.97 million I just mentioned is considered old money and thus already due Roethlisberger as part of his previous contract. It gets rolled into the new signing bonus to help lower his 2019 cap charge and also guarantees the money.
Using the basic parameters that Corry speculated for a new Roethlisberger extension, the quarterback’s 2019 salary cap charge would drop to $15.23 million from $23.2 million, or a savings of $7.97 million.
While Corry did not list any other parameters related to a new contract extension for Roethlisberger such as base salary and potential roster bonuses past 2019, he does feel that a four-year add on would include at least $116 million in new money.
Obviously, Corry’s speculated numbers might not wind up being exact, but they should be in the ballpark and especially if Roethlisberger is willing to settle for a new money annual average of $29 million as part of a four-year extension.
If and when Roethlisberger does sign a contract extension, such a transaction would likely occur around the quarterback’s birthday, which is March 2.